There is no doubt that awareness of menopause has never been higher and the taboo around this topic is well on its way to being broken, once and for all. As society begins to speak more openly about this topic, what does that mean for menopause in the workplace?
How can employers harness the heightened awareness around menopause to create an environment where all colleagues – those experiencing menopause themselves and those around them – feel comfortable and confident speaking up? How do employers bring meaningful change to their workplace and avoid simply ‘ticking a box’ or signing a pledge? As with any cultural shift, actions speak louder than words. Signing a pledge or writing a policy isn’t enough: they need to be acted upon with training, commitment, safeguarding and support in place.
Back in 2016, when I first started speaking to employers, I couldn’t find a menopause in the workplace policy in the land. Fast forward to today and CIPD estimates 30% of organisations have a ‘working’ menopause plan in place. The tide is most certainly turning and there is definitely an acceleration of awareness and interest in how employers can change the lived experience of menopause in the workplace. The good news is that you can make a start today with some small and simple changes shown to make a big difference. Let’s look at why it’s important to be menopause friendly, what good looks like and how being menopause friendly can benefit your business as well as bring confidence, relief and loyalty among your workforce.
The importance of openness surrounding menopause in the workplace
First and foremost, if you care about your colleagues and strive to have equity in the workplace, you need to be menopause friendly. Menopause is protected under the Equality Act – under sex, age and disability discrimination – and menopause tribunals are on the rise.
As a menopause friendly employer, you will differentiate yourselves from other employers. As well as being a retention tool to stop you losing top talent, being menopause friendly is a recruitment tool, attracting people who want to work for an employer that puts its staff welfare at the heart of its business. The inclusive culture and empathy this engenders promote a sense of understanding and unity, making this a desirable place to work.
One in four women in the UK consider leaving work during their menopause. It costs, on average, £30,000 to replace, recruit and induct a new employee: employers simply can’t afford to see talent walking out of their door. Why risk that for the sake of putting in place menopause friendly practices that can keep staff thriving at work?
What it means to be ‘menopause friendly’
I coined the phrase back in 2016 when I started to offer support and training and couldn’t be more delighted to see the term commonly used. But it’s important we look deeper into what the term ‘menopause friendly’ actually means in the workplace setting. And ensure that employers who claim this are genuinely providing the necessary education, training, engagement and support that colleagues need to thrive and bring their best self to work.
More than a pledge
As awareness around menopause at work escalated, employers were keen to be seen to be getting on board. Once of the quickest ways to do this was to sign a pledge. While a positive start, on its own it means little as there are no standards to achieve, no training to fulfil and no evidence to show that you are, in fact, menopause friendly. Putting a menopause policy in place also sounds good but lacks value unless you can prove it’s being acted upon.
To bring meaningful change to your workplace you need to commit to training and education, make physical changes to improve the workplace environment and apply practices that literally change the lived experience for people working through menopause.
From there, employers who really want to stand out can apply for The Menopause Friendly Accreditation which has exacting standards to achieve. These are assessed by an independent panel of experts who review the application and evidence before granting the accreditation. It’s not easy to achieve which makes it all the more meaningful when you do!
Six steps to being a menopause friendly employer
The good news is that you can make a start towards being menopause friendly today by taking a few straightforward steps. I’d recommend working with a training provider to help guide and support you with the first training or education session; to set the scene and start the ball rolling often better coming from an outside speaker.
- Start the conversation by hosting a talk from an expert speaker. This will bring the topic into the open and encourage people to speak openly about their own experience, ask for help and, perhaps, share their own tips.
- Ask your employees these two questions. First, what is getting in the way of you being your best at work and, second, what can we do about it? Use their answers to shape your programme to be a menopause friendly employer. Revisit it often to evaluate your progress and next areas to address.
- Make training widely available to so that everyone from managers to HR teams and department heads to junior staff feel confident and ready to support colleagues.
- Train individual menopause champions and allies working across all levels and departments: menopause should be an inclusive conversation, so don’t exclude men and younger colleagues.
- Create resources and support bespoke to your workplace and have these readily available on your work intranet. Also, signpost individuals to the (https://henpicked.net/menopause-hub/) a community website that is free to access and promises no advertising, no paywall and no bias.
- Look at your physical workplace environment: consider how to improve ventilation, offer deskside fans, ensure access to cool fresh water and relax your staff uniform rules to enable colleagues to feel comfortable throughout the day.
Achieving Menopause Friendly Accreditation
As mentioned, an increasing number of menopause friendly employers are motivated to apply for The Menopause Friendly Accreditation which is a mark of excellence for menopause in the workplace. A truly meaningful badge, it is awarded to employers who can demonstrate to an Independent Panel that they have put in place the right standard of menopause awareness, education and support. The Menopause Friendly Accreditation marks out employers and organizations which have made and demonstrated an absolute commitment to bring positive and lasting change in their workplaces.
The bespoke approach
It’s important to recognise that there is no ‘one size fits all’ menopause policy and it’s folly to think you can buy an ‘off the shelf’ rule book. There are some elements that will be common to all types of business, but you really need to have your menopause policy and practices tailored to suit your organisation, workforce and colleagues.
Despite seven years’ experience delivering menopause friendly training and support, our team takes nothing for granted and assumes nothing! Before any training session, we work with the employer to tailor their session to hit the right note, then follow up with a report and suggestions on next steps. It’s vital that employers work closely with us to develop bespoke programmes that really reach the heart of their organisation.
What might work for a high street bank won’t suit a football club; the NHS needs differ greatly from a supermarket and the interventions needed by a police force aren’t likely to resonate well with a construction company!
Menopause in the workplace: Training for Businesses
I’ve learned that businesses need to balance the training with support pathways for employees. It sounds onerous but isn’t really and a bespoke plan will cover all these elements:
- a strategy and objectives to achieve the right outcome
- training for colleagues
- training for managers and leaders
- training for HR and occupational health colleagues
- training for menopause champions
- ‘Train the trainer’ programmes for advocates in the workplace who, in turn, can train colleagues and keep them informed and supported
The menopause friendly feel good factor
I’m from a corporate background myself and no stranger to competitive businesses and the need to protect your assets and successful strategies to remain on top. But one of the most refreshing things I’ve found about menopause in the workplace is how supportive and encouraging our members are of each other. Our membership provides a platform for organisations to collaborate and receive expert support both from each other as much as from us. They’re keen to share best practice and polices, host training events and workshops and even come together to celebrate and champion each other at the Menopause Friendly Employer Awards.
Futureproofing change for menopause in the workplace
I’m greatly encouraged to see how far we’ve come in being able to talk about menopause in the workplace. We’re making great progress, but the job won’t be done until menopause support is fully embedded and sustainable across every organisation. Until every employee facing menopause feels able to ask for help without embarrassment and be given guidance and reassurance without discrimination. If we change this now, then my daughter’s generation and those generations to follow won’t even have to think about this. They’ll know what to look for. They’ll know what to do.
Deborah Garlick is the CEO and founder of Henpicked, and director of Menopause Friendly Australia. She has overseen the delivery of training to over a thousand organisations across the public and private sector. She was instrumental in establishing Menopause Friendly, for organisations to receive accreditation of their menopause activity from an independent panel of experts. Deborah is a passionate advocate of all things menopause, appearing regularly in the press, on TV and radio.